Willpower is best defined by how much torture you can endure before making it a habit.
Much like chum-bucket art school, the work is the hardest part. You can talk about the solution all day, but do you have the power to make it happen? The answer is usually yes, you do have the power: hence dilemma.
I was once caught in such a dilemma.
There was a time when cookies were basically my staple food group.
Yes. Food. Group.
I couldn’t imagine a meal without dessert following—going without dessert was something I thought only uptight, holier than thou, healthy people did (I’m kind of right about that, I’m just one of them now. There’s a secret society and they give out free pens, coozies and t-shirts that say “I’m pretentious!” (No, not really)).
Around middle school / junior high, I started noticing girls in my class exercising to get fit, not to have fun. I was on so many sports teams growing up, I didn’t even think about why I was able to eat so much shit and not weigh the same as a brontosaurus.
However, my self-consciousness slowly began growing in the petri dish at the back of my mind.
Fast forward to high school.
I kept slamming the junk and my metabolism started to slow.
I was still healthy and active, but also soft and riddled with acne. I should have been—could have been—thinner if chocolate wasn’t the only thing I ate in the cafeteria. My self-consciousness was approaching the zenith of perilous loathing. I wanted to lose weight. Badly. But not badly enough, I suppose.
I was in denial:
“If I eat seven oatmeal cookies, it is the same as a salad.”
Nope. That is false.
I became a lot more active towards the end of my senior year; I started going to the gym after school, followed by strengthening routines (I think I was doing 1,000 crunches and 200 push-ups every night), and still not getting the desired results. Keep in mind, I was used to being on sports teams and killing it every day on the field, in the pool, or on the court depending on the season: going to the gym was hard, but I had the skills to make it bearable.
So, I graduated high school.
The day after graduation, tragedy struck.
I found my fist in
Not in a slice of cake—and, yes, there were plenty of utensils, so I was not lacking a fork—but I was actually grabbing the cake and shoving it into my face like some lumberous, under-evolved cavewoman.
The petri dish in the back of my mind had entirely consumed my thoughts; I had reached the zenith of self-loathing.
Let me tell you: finding your fist inside of a sheet-cake, grasping for delicious, fistfuls of heaven, gasping for air between bites is always a good time to look at your life and goals.
So, I realized the one thing that needed to go:
All of them.
I am a binge-eater when it comes to certain types of food (unfortunately lettuce is not one of those foods) and I knew that, unless I cut all of them out, I would never reach my goals of health.
Let me tell you something you may not have known about giving up sugar:
I went through withdrawal.
I would wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, shouting in my sleep because, in my dream, I was bathing in chocolate—nay—drowning in chocolate. And yes, I still have those dreams, but only following a bakery’s olfactory euphoria.
It was so hard no to eat sweets.
I had eaten them every day my entire life. It was habit.
I knew I needed to actively strengthen my willpower in order to keep true to my sweet-free lifestyle. One thing that always ensnared my mother and I (’twas her sweet-tooth I inherited but, alas, not her metabolism) was chocolate chips. There was always a bag of chocolate chips lying around, asking to be consumed. So, naturally I decided this was where I should start.
Every day I would go into the kitchen, make sure I was alone, take out the bag of chocolate chips, pour them into my hand, hold them up to my face, open my mouth and…
“No! No! No!”
I would actually shout at the chocolate in my hand, scream at it, salivating like a mad beast. I would love for someone to psycho-analyze me just so they can say, “My professional opinion is that you are one bat-shit-crazy-ass person,” to which I’d respond, “Yeah, but did you learn anything new?”
It hurt me a little to betray chocolate (yes, I personify things) so violently—but it was a necessity.
Honestly, could you imagine if these chocolate chips had consciousness and their goal was to be eaten? They’d see me coming, get excited as the selected handful, and brace themselves for the fulfillment of their lifelong goals. Then, I’d just shout at them, put them back, and they’d develop an existential crisis.
This is a seriously first-world statement, but it was incredibly hard not to slam them down my throat like I had habitually done thousands of times.
But shouting at them honestly helped.
It was looking my enemy in the face and actively saying I wouldn’t give up.
That summer, I healthily lost 30 pounds in three months. If that is not an indication of how sweets impacted my life, I don’t know what else to tell you.
**emphasis on “healthily” because typically that amount in that time period is not healthy but all I did was cut out sweets and junk**
It has been over six years since my last bite of chocolate. Really. The sweetest things I have eaten since then are muffins (homemade) and granola (homemade). I also have a mad respect for anyone giving up actual addictive substances (smoking, drugs, etc.) because, knowing how difficult it was for me to give up sugar, I know that it has to be a billion times harder to give those up (good job if you’re one of those people!), especially paired with much worse withdrawal than dreams inspired by Willy Wonka’s bathhouse of horrors.
The point of this is to show if I can do it, then so can you.
Willpower is habitual.
You have to want results more than your bad habits. No, I’m not ripped, but I have automatically changed my life forever because I no longer feel the need to slam chocolate into my face and I am fully aware any given moment is an opportunity to better my well-being.